Crypto-castle rehab: A cautionary tale in an unregulated market

By Matt Redley

Set in the stunning countryside of the Scottish Borders, Castle Craig describes its 50 acres “parkland and woods [as] a relaxed and tranquil environment conducive to healing and recovery”.  Founded in 1988 as a rehabilitation centre, the Scottish castle became the world’s first rehab clinic to treat cryptocurrency addiction in 2018 and has recently gained interest for receiving a ten-fold increase in the number of cryptocurrency addiction inquiries in the last year.

Behind the headlines of the soaring value of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies over the past three years, the interest in Castle Craig’s cryptocurrency services presents a different picture. Castle Craig therapist Anthony Marini, who claims to have first identified a link between cryptocurrency addiction and gambling, says that the effects of crypto addiction are exacerbated by a volatile cryptocurrency market.

With almost no barriers to entry and a market that is largely absent of regulation, cryptocurrencies have grown exponentially in popularity. Fed by a bull market and an absence of regulation, cryptocurrency markets have seen large price fluctuations. In a single day in May 2021, the price of Bitcoin plunged by about 30% before recovering to be down about 12%. Swings of this nature can result in occasional big wins and vast losses for traders, and, for some, this can feed a dopamine craving and drive a cycle of addiction.

Notably, findings and testimonials from the clinic reveal that recovering addicts’ hunger for trading crypto is often exacerbated by a cross-addiction to alcohol and drugs. As cryptocurrency is still a nascent area however, the extent of cryptocurrency addiction and its relation to other dependencies is unclear.

Digital currencies have progressed from a curiosity pursuit by a select few, to gradual mainstream integration over the past three years. Global cryptocurrency adoption has increased by 881% over the past year worldwide. Tech companies such as PayPal and Revolut, for example, have added new cryptocurrency services to their products in 2021, with PayPal allowing British customers to buy, hold and sell digital currencies on their service.

In the context of wider mainstream cryptocurrency adoption, the risks associated with cryptocurrency trading, which can feed addictive cycles, are not yet fully understood. The significant interest in cryptocurrency addiction treatment at facilities like Castle Craig, and the emerging risks to vulnerable citizens resulting from cryptocurrency trading, serve as a cautionary tale to governments developing cryptocurrency infrastructure for the future.